as well as having a thoroughly enjoyable night out at Shakespeares, whom you may have noticed me refer to previously, this week I have also gone off the rails and recklessly ended up in places where I don't normally get to. Including, shock horror, two bars with NO REAL ALES...! Despite that I have survived virtually unscathed and am here to tell you the details.
Friday I met Miss N along with Rach and Ade in the Dove and Rainbow. There was some decent music playing and I didn't look too out of place despite having come from work via the hospital, but I wasn't encouraged to find ale drinkers Rach and Ade on Guinness - "the beer's a bit crap now that stout's gone off so we are on emergency beer" they explained. Looking down the bar there were the usual suspects from national and local breweries (Trooper and Hobgoblin) so in the end I plumped for Blue Bee Nectar Pale. It was £3.00 a pint and looked fab but tasted a little, um...burnt? Still, it was drinkable enough and it was nice catching up with the R and A.
Saturday saw us in Sellers Wheel. Initially I thought they'd gone mad and put a beer on handpump but it was just the angle of the sign on one of the cakes - had I been able to see better am sure that the confectionery's identity may have made it obvious there wasn't a beer on of that name...
As it was we had excellent coffee (as was the idea) along with Lemington (Lemonton?) Squares which are rich coconut covered slabs of delicious cake that are enjoyably filling. Feeling a bit sugar laden after, we had halves of Hop Studio Pilsner and Thornbridge Versa to cleanse the palate. The Pilsner does just that but the Versa was perhaps the better of the two, being both refreshing and strongly flavoured. There is also a decent range of bottled beers from quality breweries to choose from.
Heading back into town we popped in a new venue - or a newly renamed one. The Jaipur Arms is the bar at the Best Western Hotel between Arundel Gate and High Street. Proclaiming food and Thornbridge beer it seemed like a great idea, with four beers listed on the board. Alas, this is a rather optimistic listing since there are only two keg fonts - and no hand pumps. Granted the Tsara was nice, and the decor OK for a hotel bar, but I think they've missed a trick in not having any of the real stuff on. Although, I hadn't heard anywhere that they had taken over what I imagine was the existing hotel bar so maybe its a bit too low key to risk a live product.
From here I took Miss N to the Church House. When it first opened there were 5 or 6 handpumps and they admirably strove to always have a dark beer on from the Caledonian range. Now goodness knows how many managers down the line, there are 4 handpumps, and there were three beers to choose from - Deuchars, Caledonian XPA and Autumn Red. The Red was pleasant enough but it was such a long wait at the bar that the seasons may have changed during it.
One member of staff suddenly appeared to assist the two who were rushed off their feet serving a customer next to me with the longest and most complex order ever and a large number of people at the other end of the bar - but he just went to the first person he saw in the larger group, except that group had formed after I'd got there. The two staff there at the beginning them both went to attend to the same group at the opposite end of the bar before both remembering at the same time that I was there for a drink. I know its Saturday night but ten minutes is a long time to wait for two halves.
Meanwhile, the decor remains the same and there was a mixed clientele savouring the food aromas and relaxing in comfy seats. I can't see that anything has changed in a way that will attract more customers or that has improved the experience of the customer in terms of service or choice, so I expect the pub to struggle on with no-one knowing where it is. In their favour (from my point of view) there appears to always be a seasonal beer on so maybe one of Caley's excellent stouts will make an appearance soon. However, a year and one day after it reopened its still a place to nurse a half in and remains traceable on the internet mainly via some blokes beer blog, as opposed to their FB page or fairly out of date barbook page....
Our final stop of the night was in a strangely quiet DAda, where all four of the handpumps were dispensing some of Thornbridge's poorer cask offerings - Kipling, Marples and Wild Swan. Luckily the excellent Saint Petersburg was flying the flag for the good old days. I had a half of that and Miss N a half of the excellent Chiron, before she moved onto a pint and I a half and a half of Halcyon. To be fair, one reliably excellent feature of the Thornbridge portfolio is Halcyon - and it was damned excellent as always.
DAda my be a regular haunt of mine but its slowly metamorphosing from its original incarnation two years ago into a reliable source of excellent Keykeg and bottled beers, and when Daddy T allows, a decent guest cask ale or two. Plus there is the promise of Gluhkriek for Winter. And, whilst not a beer related bonus, it does have a rather fabulous big red leather sofa to snuggle up on and listen to some music. Simple pleasures but ones that help to make it worth going back.